Finding the right WordPress web host is often a daunting task. However, the job gets less complicated the larger your budget grows. In fact, after a certain point it makes more sense to look beyond ‘regular' shared web hosts.
That's where managed WordPress hosting services come in. They tend to offer a far better experience than their lower-tier counterparts, at a premium price. If you have the budget for those costs – which aren't always that high – a managed web host can save you a lot of headaches and provide you with top-notch performance.
In this article, we're going to take a close look at three of our favorite managed WordPress hosts. We'll compare their features, performance, and prices, and help you decide which one you should opt for. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let's get down to business!
SiteGround vs. WP Engine vs. Flywheel: Our Findings in a Nutshell
We're going to cover a lot of information in this post. So if you're in a hurry, you might want to go over the short version of our findings instead:
|The plan we tested||GrowBig (Shared)||Personal (Shared)||Tiny (VPS)|
|Cost per month||$5.95||$29||$15|
|Number of WordPress websites||Multiple||1||1|
|Average loading times||0.69 seconds||0.30 seconds||0.59 seconds|
What Managed WordPress Hosting Is (And Why It's Beneficial)
As you might imagine, a few numbers alone can't give you the full picture of what it's like to use each of these hosts. If you have the time, we recommend reading on. After all, you might end up subscribing to one of these services for the long haul, so you'll want to go in with as much information as possible.
In short, managed hosting will offer a higher level of service with regard to your server and account than regular hosting. You're still able to use shared servers, although you'll also see Virtual Private Servers (VPS) offered too. You'll sometimes also see managed dedicated servers. As you may expect, a managed service commands a higher price tag than other plans. Throw in a dedicated server, and you'll likely max out your budget in a flash (unless you're a large business).
First off, let's do away with the myth that managed hosting is inherently better or worse than other types. To put it simply, managed hosting is the equivalent of valet parking. You don't need to opt for it, but it can make your life easier at the cost of a small premium. Managed WordPress hosting services usually employ people who know the platform inside and out, and they're all about providing you with a streamlined experience.
With that in mind, let's go over the pros of using such a service over a regular web host:
- Fewer headaches. With regular hosting services, you're usually the one in charge of keeping your website running in top shape. However, managed providers often take pains to ensure that your site(s) are working correctly.
- Higher performance. In most cases, these types of providers optimize their servers to offer you optimal WordPress performance. That's not to say that you can't do as well with a regular web host, but that would take a lot of extra effort on your end.
- Better security. Most managed WordPress web hosts keep their servers running with the latest software to prevent security vulnerabilities. In some cases, they'll also block the installation of plugins with known issues, and perform regular security scans.
The main upside when it comes to managed hosting is not having to worry about the small details. If you have experience running your own WordPress websites, chances are you won't mind taking care of those details on your own. However, if you can spare the extra cash, managed WordPress hosting can save you a lot of time.
On the other hand, the main downside to managed hosting is the price. This type of service tends to be more expensive than its non-managed equivalent. However, the good news is that there are some affordable options. For example, the three web hosts we're going to talk about in a moment run the gamut from cheap to moderately expensive (in our opinion), and they're all excellent.
How to Choose the Best Managed WordPress Hosting Service
By now, you should hopefully understand what can make WordPress managed hosting such an attractive option. Now we're going to break down what features you should look for in a managed hosting plan, if you want to make a smart decision.
Your chosen plan should offer:
- WordPress-specific features. In most cases, you'll want to opt for managed web hosts that specialize in WordPress, since they tend to offer a lot of extra features. For example, WP Engine enables you to create staging sites where you can test new functionality before pushing those changes to your live site.
- Top-notch performance. No one likes to deal with slow websites, and managed web hosts usually offer high speeds and performance. However, you'll still want to check out how each web host compares in this aspect, which is something we'll cover later on.
- Around-the-clock support. One of the best things above managed web hosts is they often go above and beyond when it comes to customer service. If you end up choosing any of the options in this article, you'll enjoy a level of support that most regular web hosts can't match.
- High security standards. Ideally, your chosen web host should take care of security for you. That means performing regular scans, keeping your server's software up to date, and even automating backups for good measure.
Earlier, we mentioned that finding the right WordPress web host isn't simple. Throwing all these features into the mix certainly doesn't simplify the process. However, the three hosts we're going to cover meet all these criteria, so your choice should be based on which one you feel more comfortable using.
SiteGround vs. WP Engine vs. Flywheel: Introduction and Key Features
Before we get into the details of price and performance, let's go over what makes each of these managed web hosts different and examine the key features they offer.
Keep in mind that we're going to focus only on the features provided by a key starter plan from each platform. As you move up to higher tiers, you'll find more and more advanced options. However, we don't recommend that new users choose advanced plans right off the bat, unless you know exactly what you're looking for and don't mind spending some extra money.
SiteGround is the budget king when it comes to managed WordPress hosting. Its pricing is comparable to that of regular web hosts, yet it still manages to offer a great experience. If you're looking for an excellent WordPress-specific plan at a low price, this is probably the best option.
The only downside is that it doesn't offer a sleek-looking dashboard, which is something most other managed WordPress web hosts provide. In fact, SiteGround feels just like a regular web host in most respects. You'll still have access to your usual cPanel, and chances are you won't feel the difference from other types of hosting until you start checking out the extra features it offers.
- Communicate with a team of professionals for around-the-clock support.
- Set up WordPress with a single click.
- Keep your site safe with daily backups.
- Access your website through Secure Shell (SSH).
- Use the WordPress Command Line (WP-CLI) to manage your installation.
- Get access to the WordPress SuperCacher plugin.
Overall, SiteGround offers a handful of WordPress-specific features that regular web hosts usually don't provide. It's a very decent choice, particularly considering its low prices.
In many ways, WP Engine is the opposite of SiteGround. Whereas SiteGround mainly focuses on small to medium sites, WP Engine is a popular option for clients with sizable sites and strict requirements.
That fact is reflected in this host's pricing, as even the most basic of plans will set you back quite a bit. In return for that investment, you'll get access to a robust service with excellent support and a dashboard that's optimized for WordPress users. Plus, you also get to enjoy several advanced features, including the ability to set up staging sites with only a few clicks, automatic Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates, and more.
- Provides access to a team of WordPress experts any time you need them.
- Comes with WordPress pre-installed.
- Lets you set up staging sites (and merge them with your main setup) with just a few clicks.
- Offers support for PHP 7.
- Integrates with Amazon S3 accounts.
WP Engine's basic plan includes a decent variety of WordPress-specific features. However, at this level, you're paying mostly for its top-notch performance and support. If you want access to more advanced features, you'll need to opt for the platform's more expensive plans.
If we had to describe Flywheel in a nutshell, we'd say it offers an excellent halfway option between SiteGround and WP Engine. It provides similar performance as the previous two platforms, but is somewhere in the middle in terms of price.
At the same time, you get access to a premium WordPress hosting experience. For example, Flywheel features one of the most user-friendly dashboards we've had the pleasure of using so far. From a single location, you can easily monitor all your site's stats and access some of Flywheel's more advanced features, such as rewinding your site to an earlier backup. On a different note, Flywheel also offers a tool to help you set up local WordPress websites for free, which is a decent alternative to online staging.
- Provides access to advanced support during business hours on weekdays.
- Comes with a free SSL certificate.
- Protects your site with nightly backups.
- Lets you clone your websites with a few clicks.
- Offers support for PHP 7.
- Enables you to set up WordPress ‘blueprints' to save time when deploying websites.
Flywheel is one of the most interesting options available when it comes to managed WordPress hosting. The platform doesn't only focus on providing you with advanced features, but also offers functionality that can save you time if you're a developer or an agency. Take blueprints, for example – they enable you to deploy sites with all your favorite plugins and themes ready to go in a matter of minutes.
If you're in the business of creating WordPress websites for others, Flywheel can be a great option. Plus, it even offers plans designed with agencies in mind.
A Comparison of Plans and Pricing
We've mentioned prices a few times already, but we haven't discussed specific numbers. Let's see how these services fare against one another when it comes to value.
SiteGround's GrowBig Plan
SiteGround's GrowBig plan starts at $5.95 per month, and it's the middle tier of the platform's three WordPress-specific offerings:
This particular plan supports multiple websites, handles up to 25,000 monthly visitors, and offers you 20 GB of space. On paper, it's a great option for small to medium websites, and it offers an excellent mix of advanced features.
For example, with the GrowBig plan, you can access your site using WP-CLI, keep up to 30 backups at all times, and get access to SiteGround's SuperCacher tool. Overall, this is the obvious choice if you're looking to try managed WordPress hosting, but you don't want to shell out too much money for the privilege.
Most importantly, SiteGround offers good performance (which we'll talk about soon enough), so you can rest assured that your savings won't translate into mediocre service.
WP Engine's Personal Plan
WP Engine's Personal plan is the first tier out of the platform's four offerings, and it starts at $29 per month:
Right away, you'll notice that WP Engine is the most expensive of the options we're covering in this article. So you might be asking yourself: What makes it worth the investment? For one, WP Engine offers rock-solid performance. It's the kind of web host you can use for websites that get thousands of hits per day without breaking a sweat, hence the premium.
As for the Personal plan, it supports a single website with up to 25,000 visitors per month, and offers you 10 GB of storage. On top of that, you get access to a wide variety of features, including daily backups, a proprietary caching technology, and in-house performance reports.
Flywheel's Tiny Plan
Despite its unassuming name, Flywheel's Tiny plan packs a punch at a reasonable $15 per month:
The Tiny plan supports up to 5,000 monthly visits, offers 5 GB of space, and supports one WordPress installation. Those numbers are not as high as the other plans we've covered so far, which means the Tiny plan is a decent option only for smaller websites.
That said, Flywheel offers excellent performance and a wide variety of advanced options. Developers and agencies in particular will feel right at home here, thanks to features such as blueprints and site cloning.
Moreover, every Flywheel plan is hosted on Virtual Private Servers (VPSs) which is a nice change of pace from shared hosting.
Performance Results and Analysis
We've talked a lot about how managed WordPress hosting offers high performance, so it's time to measure how the three hosts we've been discussing compare in that respect.
For this section, we're going to run two tests for each host. First, we'll check out how long it takes for a bare-bones WordPress homepage to load using Pingdom Tools. For the second test, we'll find out how it performs under stress by simulating up to 25 concurrent users over a period of 5 minutes and seeing if its performance holds up, all thanks to the Load Impact service. Let's get to it!
SiteGround's Performance Analysis
SiteGround is off to a good start right off the bat, with a loading time of 0.696 seconds:
To put that result in perspective, anything under one second is considered very fast. In fact, Pingdom puts this loading time within the 94th percentile for all sites.
Moving on, SiteGround also performs admirably under stress. In fact, it hardly shows any variation in loading times even with multiple concurrent users:
- Minimum loading time: 0.39 seconds
- Maximum loading time: 0.77 seconds
For a budget managed hosting option, SiteGround still looks strong when it comes to performance. Overall, that places it in the lead in a price-to-performance ratio.
WP Engine's Performance Analysis
As you might expect, WP Engine offers very fast loading times. During our first test, our website only took 0.304 seconds to load:
According to Pingdom, that result makes it faster than 99% of sites. Of course, the number is a bit skewed since our test site is bare bones, but most WP Engine sites should load faster than those on other web hosts.
Moving on, the Personal plan also holds up well under a moderate load. During our tests, our server barely broke a sweat, and loading times hardly varied at all:
- Minimum loading time: 0.25 seconds
- Maximum loading time: 0.26 seconds
If you've never checked out any performance tests for other web hosts, keep in mind that these results are exceptional. A quarter of a second is an incredibly quick loading time. This shows the kind of performance you can achieve with managed WordPress hosting.
Flywheel's Performance Analysis
Last but not least, Flywheel's Pingdom results put it in the same ballpark as our other entries, with our test site only taking 0.592 seconds to load:
That's an excellent result, but what really surprised us was how Flywheel performed under a load. Check out our stress test results:
- Minimum loading time: 0.14 seconds
- Maximum loading time: 0.07 seconds
So far, these are the best results we've seen. In fact, we ran the test multiple times just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, but the numbers held up. Keep in mind that the site we tested was low on content, which can affect loading times. So can the fact that Flywheel is a VPS-based service, while both WP Engine and SiteGround offer shared environments for the plans we covered earlier. Still, these are excellent results.
A Summary of Our Findings
We've covered a lot of ground so far, and gotten a pretty clear picture of what each host can do. The purpose of this comparison wasn't to find a clear winner between the three hosts, but to determine which types of users would find each of them a better fit.
With that said, we can state without a doubt that SiteGround is the way to go if you're looking for managed WordPress hosting on a budget. On the other hand, if you're looking for rock-solid performance, both WP Engine and Flywheel are great choices. The latter in particular is a great option for developers and agencies, but we're comfortable recommending either for a wide range of uses. Which platform you pick will ultimately come down to your budget and the specific features you're looking for.
A lot of people think that managed WordPress hosting is outside their budget or more expensive than what it's worth. However, in many cases the prices for this type of hosting service aren't that steep, and the gains in features and performance more than make up for the investment if you can afford it.
The three hosting providers we've reviewed in this post are all great options, so let's recap which of them might be a better fit for your needs:
- SiteGround: For those on a budget who don't wish to compromise on quality, this is an excellent managed web host.
- WP Engine: This provider is on the expensive side, but offers rock-solid performance and plenty of features.
- Flywheel: Finally, this option offers a solid mix of performance and advanced WordPress features at a reasonable price.
Do you have questions about these three managed WordPress web hosts? Ask away in the comments section below!